AFC East: Taylor Price
New England will go with a receiver-by-committee setup next season to replace the lost production. So far, the team signed receivers Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones in free agency. But will the Patriots add another receiver in the NFL draft?
The Patriots' track record of drafting receivers have been awful in recent years. It's the one position head coach Bill Belichick, who calls the shots in New England, has not been able to figure out.
New England's selections at receiver reads like a laundry list of draft busts. Taylor Price, Brandon Tate, Chad Jackson and P.K. Sam are among the many flops the Patriots have selected since 2004. The most productive receiver in that span, seventh-rounder Julian Edelman, was a converted quarterback and has 69 career receptions. Others, like Matthew Slater and Tate, developed into primarily special-teamers.
For some reason, Belichick simply does not have a good eye for drafting wide receivers. Is this the year Belichick and the Patriots change that trend?
New England holds the No. 29 overall pick and could be targeting a receiver in the first two rounds. Keenan Allen of Cal, Robert Woods of USC and Terrance Williams of Baylor are all possibilities.
Whoever the Patriots choose, New England wants its next rookie receiver has a more productive career than his predecessors.
New England released Price, a former third-round pick, the team announced. Price was let go to make room for offensive lineman Nick McDonald, who was brought up from the practice squad.
Price was drafted in 2010 and recorded just three receptions for 41 yards in two seasons. He played in three games this year.
“It’s changed through the years, a lot of things are different from when I started coaching, on a lot of levels -- players, technology, the equipment we use," he said. "That’s the way it is for all of us. Bob Dylan talked about that 50 years ago."
For Belichick and his fellow coaches, Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” is a perfect theme song for the 2011 season.
Coaches must adjust to new rules as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, which means there are no more two-a-day practices, fewer full-pad practices and expanded training-camp rosters. And when it comes to Belichick’s New England Patriots club, which he leads for a 12th season, another year has brought unexpected change.
Few saw the acquisitions of controversial defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth and high-profile wide receiver Chad Ochocinco coming. Their arrivals made the start of 2011 training camp different from the norm in New England.
Usually the focus would be squarely on quarterback Tom Brady as camp opened, but in this unusual year, the NFL’s 2010 Most Valuable Player was on the back burner as he returned from January surgery on his right foot.
Indeed, things have changed.
THREE HOT ISSUES
The crowd cheered his arrival, which he acknowledged with a wave (almost like a baseball pitcher tipping his cap). Then he dominated a running drill. On the first play, he exploded through the line to blow up the play, which led to an eruption from the crowd. Haynesworth had a few other disruptive plays.
“It's going to be awesome. It's a refresher, and it kind of revived me, playing football again,” said Haynesworth, who was acquired for a fifth-round draft choice after two tumultuous seasons with the Redskins.
Haynesworth’s arrival could change the way the Patriots, who used a 3-4 alignment about 40 percent of the time last season, play defense. There have been more traditional four-man lines used in training camp, with linemen attacking more rather than controlling two gaps. Haynesworth would line up at tackle next to Pro Bowler Vince Wilfork in that type of plan.
The Patriots have managed Haynesworth’s health closely in camp, keeping him out of practice since Aug. 3. Although the reason Haynesworth is not practicing is not clear -- speculation is it’s simply maintenance of his troublesome knee -- Belichick doesn’t sound concerned.
"I think Albert has been great since he's been here,” he told WEEI sports radio Aug. 15. “He's worked hard. He's done more than really what we've asked him to do. He's put in a lot of extra time and a lot of extra effort to get back on the field, to study, to catch up on things from a playbook standpoint that's he a little behind on."
As for Haynesworth’s off-field issues, owner Robert Kraft explained how the organization developed a comfort level in acquiring him.
“I met with him, and I like the guy,” Kraft said. “He didn't come here for the money. He came here to be part of a team and win [and] I think in some ways to improve his reputation. So it's like a lot of meetings I have with these guys, I found him to be genuine and sincere. Now I hope he gets out on the field and does his thing.”
Haynesworth agreed to restructure his contract to consummate the trade. His new deal calls for him to earn a base salary of $1.5 million this season (he can earn more in incentives) before the salary spikes to $6.7 million in 2012. There was no signing bonus as part of the pact, making it a low-risk acquisition for the Patriots.
2. Will Ochocinco conform to the Patriot Way? On his first day on the practice field, Ochocinco tweeted, “It’s 1 thing to jump and be able to land on 2 feet but I had no idea I was landing in Heaven.”
He has quickly integrated himself into the mix, lining up in two-receiver packages with Wes Welker. Veteran Deion Branch joined the mix in three-wide looks.
“Once we’re on the field, there is no talking. I just look in his eyes and that’s it and that’s how we communicate,” said Ochocinco, who restructured his contract and received a $4.5 million signing bonus and base salaries of $1 million in 2011, $3 million in 2012 and $3 million in 2013. “That’s what I like about it here. [It’s] really, really cool.”
Patriots coaches and players have cited Ochocinco’s work ethic and passion for football on a daily basis, with some players laughing at the fun he has had off the field, which included attending a Red Sox/Yankees game and sitting in the front row along the third-base line, requesting a group hug from reporters and announcing that he would be living with a fan who had an Internet connection and Xbox for the first few weeks of the season.
In a classy move, second-year tight end Aaron Hernandez gave up his No. 85 for Ochocinco when the trade was consummated, the Patriots giving up fifth- and sixth-round draft choices in the move. Hernandez didn’t receive anything in return for the jersey swap, which set a positive tone.
3. Can Patriots get over playoff hump? Few would argue the Patriots aren’t top contenders for the Super Bowl. But those who don’t put them atop the list can make a strong case by pointing to their last three playoff games.
- Feb. 3, 2008: Giants 17, Patriots 14. With the chance to close out their perfect season, the Patriots fall just short.
- Jan. 10, 2010: Ravens 33, Patriots 14. A stunning home blowout in the wild-card round of the playoffs in which the Ravens stomped all over the Pats.
- Jan. 16, 2011: Jets 28, Patriots 21. Having earned the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, the Patriots had a chance to bury the Jets early, but two first-quarter miscues halted the momentum. The Jets built confidence and stunned the Pats in the divisional round.
Simply put, the Patriots won’t be able to answer one of their biggest questions for at least five months.
Saying goodbye to veteran tight end Alge Crumpler. The Patriots were so pleased with the addition of Crumpler last season, and the role he played in mentoring 2010 draft picks Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez, they named him a captain a few weeks into the season.
Crumpler’s steadying presence in the locker room was considered key in righting one of the team’s trouble areas from 2009 -- a fractured locker room.
So it was surprising when the team released him a few days into training camp, turning the position over to Gronkowski (10 TDs in 2010), Hernandez and either rookie Lee Smith (fifth-round pick out of Marshall) or Will Yeatman (rookie free agent out of Maryland).
Crumpler played 53 percent of the offensive snaps last season, contributing mostly in the running game. Only three other offensive skill-position players were on the field more.
Brace is a 2009 second-round draft choice out of Boston College who is close to hitting a fork in the road of his NFL career.
For the second year in a row, he has opened camp on a reserve list, not ready to practice. With the team releasing longtime starter Ty Warren, the opportunity was there for Brace (6-foot-3, 330 pounds) to rise up the depth chart, but he hasn’t been able to seize the opportunity.
Meanwhile, the coaching staff seems to be sending a message to Meriweather, a two-time Pro Bowl safety. Meriweather played the entire first half of the preseason opener, even though the club’s other Pro Bowl players -- cornerback Devin McCourty, linebacker Jerod Mayo and Wilfork -- did not suit up for the game.
The team also offered free-agent safety Dashon Goldson a contract before Goldson re-signed with the 49ers, while Meriweather’s practice reps of late have been split with second-year player Sergio Brown.
- Great competition at backup quarterback between third-year man Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Mallett (third round, 74th overall). Hoyer has been the No. 2 the last two seasons after making the club as a rookie free agent out of Michigan State, and he has solid command of the complex offense. Meanwhile, Mallett’s arm strength and work ethic are notable. He often stays late after practice, working with offensive assistant George Godsey on the finer points of the position (e.g., footwork).
- It has been a common occurrence to see Mallett carrying the shoulder pads of Tom Brady and Hoyer off the field after practice. Some humble pie for the highly touted signal-caller from Arkansas.
- Belichick gets involved in a drill in which the goal is for quarterbacks to maintain their concentration and perfect their footwork while under duress, and Belichick creates that duress by firing a blocking pad at them. Belichick has cranked Hoyer and Mallett in the head. No 15-yard penalties for that in practice.
- A lot of defensive linemen in camp. Counting hybrids, the Patriots have 20 in camp entering their second preseason game, and Belichick acknowledged to Sirius XM NFL radio that the team will probably keep more defensive linemen than linebackers this year.
- Second-round draft choices Ras-I Dowling (cornerback, 33rd overall) and Shane Vereen (running back, 56th overall) pulled up with hamstrings issues after just one practice, and they haven’t practiced since. Both signed contracts late -- this could be filed under the “lockout effect.” When Vereen was on the field, his speed stood out.
- Second-year receiver Taylor Price, whose chance to break through for a top spot at receiver was made more challenging by the acquisition of Ochocinco, is stating his case. He has had a solid camp and was the star of the preseason opener (5 catches, 105 yards and a TD). He said his next step is developing the trust of Brady that he’ll always be in the right spot. Right now, he looks like a solid No. 4 option.
- The Patriots struggled to generate a pass rush off the edge in 2010. Veteran defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter have been solid in that area to this point, providing what looks to be an upgrade over Tully Banta-Cain, who was released.
- First-round draft choice Nate Solder, the team’s left tackle of the future, has responded well to his crash course since joining the team a week into camp. He’s big (6-foot-8, 319 pounds) and sometimes struggles with an inside move, but the potential is easy to see.
- Veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden has turned in a solid camp as he returns after missing the entire 2010 season with a torn rotator cuff. A starter at right cornerback opposite McCourty, Bodden has worked in the slot in sub packages, a role he last played in 2007 with the Browns. Bodden’s size (6-foot-1, 193) is a good fit there from a run-support and jamming-receivers perspective.
- Don’t expect All-Pro left guard Logan Mankins to get too comfortable now that he has signed a six-year, $51 million contract extension. He looks like his typical nasty self on the field, and his early-camp battles with Haynesworth were a highlight.
- The Patriots had a minor scare when Gronkowski was helped off the field Aug. 8. But he returned a few days later and looks primed to build off his impressive rookie campaign.
- Sixth-year kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed the last half of the 2010 season with a torn right quadriceps muscle, but his recovery is on track. The right-footed kicker is not yet taking kickoffs -- UMass product Chris Koepplin is in camp to handle those duties -- but he looks strong on field goals. Gostkowski has hit from a long of 53 yards in practice and was good from 43 and 46 yards in the preseason opener.
During a radio interview Thursday, GM Buddy Nix didn't deny that Lee Evans is available on the trade market.
The New York Times' Andy Benoit has a season preview for the Bills.
The Bills still have some needs to fill, but with veterans Drayton Florence, Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin in the secondary, the team is set at cornerback.
Coach Tony Sparano admitted the Dolphins will stick to a rudimentary game plan for the team's preseason opener. Sparano on expectations for the offense: "I don’t want to use the term vanilla, but that’s kind of where you’re going to be.”
Considering what's gone wrong for the Dolphins over the past year, they could use an image makeover, according to TCPalm.com's Ben Becker.
More details are emerging about the April incident that left both Brandon Marshall and his wife Michi-Nogami Marshall injured. According to reports, the police "found a 13-inch kitchen knife laying next to a magazine clip from a firearm on a table outside of Marshall’s office. Both were covered in blood."
New England Patriots
Receiver Taylor Price, a 2010 third-round pick, impressed Bill Belichick with his performance in Thursday night's preseason opener. Belichick on Price: "Taylor had some good plays, made a couple good catches. ... But again, he’s done some of those things in practice over the last couple weeks. It’s good to see them happen in the game, but he’s been very competitive in training camp this year. The year’s made a big difference.”
Rookie running back Stevan Ridley didn't waste any time making a big impression in his first NFL action.
Tom Brady was among a number of New England's starters would did not see any action in the opener.
New York Jets
The Associated Press has a profile on Mark Sanchez and Scotty McKnight, childhood best friends who have been reunited as teammates on the Jets.
Center Nick Mangold was fine after leaving Thursday's practice early with what was later described as a stinger.
Rex Ryan said he plans to play Plaxico Burress for a few snaps in Monday’s preseason opener with the Texans, even though Burress continues to be limited in practice due to an ankle injury.
The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr looks at Dustin Keller and the Jets' depth at tight end heading into the season.
A night for backups. Bill Belichick sat several key players, quarterback Tom Brady; receivers Chad Ochocinco, Wes Welker and Deion Branch; defensive lineman Vince Wilfork; cornerback Devin McCourty and linebacker Jerod Mayo among them. This gave Belichick a chance to evaluate some younger players, while at the same time not rushing things with key personnel after just seven full-pad practices. You had to be a hard-core fan to sit through all of this one, but in all, it was a productive night for a first preseason game.
Taylor Price one of the big stories. The second-year receiver was excellent, the highlight play coming with a back-of-the-end-zone, fingertip, toe-tapping touchdown grab. Price later showed his speed on a long catch-and-run play. Price is behind Ochocinco, Branch and Welker on the depth chart, but he ensured that he's not in jeopardy of missing the final roster cut. Impressive night.
Quarterback situation looks sharp. Between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, the Patriots appear to have one of the best backup quarterback situations in the NFL. Both were impressive.
Rookie RB Stevan Ridley shines. Third-round pick Stevan Ridley showed up for camp on time and took advantage of extended reps as second-rounder Shane Vereen had yet to sign and veterans BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris could not yet practice. That showed tonight. Ridley's confidence and hard-charging style was evident on two touchdown runs and he showed good hands on a touchdown catch. Agents generally don't get a lot of praise, but Ridley's agent -- Andy Simms -- gets a tip of the cap from here. Simms is also the agent for McCourty and for two years in a row he's made sure his clients were there for the first day of practice, putting them in the best position to succeed.
Tough night for CBs Darius Butler and Jonathan Wilhite. Both played into the fourth quarter. That's a hard fall for Butler, the 2009 second-round pick was an opening-day starter last season. Butler and Wilhite look to be on the roster bubble.
Nate Solder passes first test. The first-round pick played the entire first half at left tackle. He was hardly noticed, which meant he did his job well.
Dane Fletcher a top performer on defense. The second-year linebacker started and led the defensive huddle. He finished with five tackles while delivering a bit hit in the process. A strong special teams player as a rookie (he made the club as a free agent), he showed he's ready if called upon as a middle linebacker in the event of injury to Brandon Spikes.
1. Linebacker Brandon Spikes made an impression. On one play, he blew up offensive tackle Mark LeVoir, charging downhill with force. I was curious to see how Spikes looked coming into this camp after the momentum he built as a rookie was stunted with his late-season four-game suspension. He caught my eye today.
2. Remember when Rodney Harrison first came to the Patriots and he put a hard hit on Troy Brown in practice? That was one of those moments where a player practices a certain way and has to learn how to adapt to a new team's way of doing things. There was a similar moment this morning with Chad Ochocinco, who caught a pass up the left side, and as Patriots defenders often do, they kept going after the ball as he finished his route. It's the way the Patriots practice, always looking to get the ball out, while stressing to receivers the importance of security all the way through the play. Ochocinco seemed a bit surprised that linebacker Jerod Mayo was still trying to pry the ball away about 20-25 yards downfield and the two had some playful pushing afterwards.
3. Ochocinco is right into the mix and it's what one would expect. Smooth routes and good hands. When looking at the receiver depth chart, I think it's going to be tough for second-year man Taylor Price to break through.
4. Crowds are light. For the first weekend of training camp, on a beautiful day, I was really surprised at how many empty spots there were in the bleachers and on the hill around the practice fields. Part of it might be the "lockout effect", another part of it might be the fluid nature of the schedule and how the session wasn't announced until late Friday.
Despite Ochocinco's well-reported and candid personality, the veteran wide receiver has a good relationship with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. The two developed the bond at the Pro Bowl several years ago, and prior to a preseason game two seasons ago, microphones caught the two exchanging good-natured ribbing.
The 33-year old Ochocinco was a steady producer for the Bengals since being drafted in 2001. An ankle injury limited him to 14 games last season; he finished the season with 67 receptions for 831 yards and four touchdowns.
While no longer as dangerous a downfield threat as he was earlier in his career, Ochocinco, at 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, adds some size to a Patriots receiving corps lacking it following the departure of Randy Moss last October.
The risk for the Patriots here is seen as minimal. Ochocinco's headlines are considered to be more playful than incendiary. He has been hit with league fines for jocular touchdown celebrations, not legal problems or disciplinary issues.
In addition, for acquiring another top receiving threat for quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots only surrendered two late-round draft picks, while negotiating more manageable financial terms with Ochocinco.
For existing Patriots personnel, this trade will have the most impact on third-year receiver Brandon Tate and second-year receiver Taylor Price. Following the departure of Moss last season, Tate was unable to emerge as a receiving threat consistently for the offense, a role that will now likely be taken over in part by Ochocinco. Price's chances of adding sought-after playing time have also been reduced.
That would give the former New York Giants receiver plenty of time to get on a roster and play a full season. If a labor standoff doesn't compress the summer workout schedule, Burress also would have a good chance to learn the new offense by opening day.
Would Burress be a fit in the AFC East?
Before we consider each team, let's project the kind of receiver Burress will be.
His 34th birthday is in August. He hasn't caught an NFL pass since November 2008. Even before he went to prison after accidentally shooting himself at a Manhattan nightclub, his average yards per catch diminished four straight years.
Still, he's 6-foot-5 and always a threat to sky over defensive backs.
"When you look at him on the field, the guy is tall," ESPN analyst Tim Hasselbeck said Monday. "He's got long arms. One of the things the Giants loved to do is they'd get on [the opponent's] 45 and take a shot. With the way the rules are set up in the National Football League, it's absolutely perfect for a guy like Plaxico Burress, whose got the long arms, got the reach, who understands how to use his body.
Hasselbeck said Burress' employment prospects could be helped by Michael Vick's successful return from prison. Vick seemed to have grown from the experience. Maybe Burress did, too.
Next to Hasselbeck on the "NFL Live" set was former Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce, who claimed prison might have helped Burress in another way. Pierce won a Super Bowl ring after Burress caught the decisive touchdown to deny the New England Patriots' perfect season.
"He was in jail for two years, and that's a lot of time for that body to heal up," Pierce said. "Plaxico had some ankle, some knee injuries. You sit around for two years, your body starts to heal.
"There's some teams out there ... that would love to have his services."
The AFC East could be a destination. I reached out to Scouts Inc. analyst Matt Williamson for his thoughts on the four rosters and whether or not there would be room for a receiver like Burress.
"I really don't know what he will be able to provide," Williamson said. "He obviously will be the same size when he returns and should continue to use his big frame well, especially near the goal line. It is speculation as to what he will be like athletically, but I have to think that his big play ability and suddenness will be greatly compromised."
Their receiving corps looks solid, but it can be upgraded. Lee Evans has been a disappointment, but defenses must account for him at all times. Steve Johnson had a breakout season with more than 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Roscoe Parrish had the best season of his career even though a broken wrist sidelined him after just eight games. Undrafted rookie David Nelson stepped up late in the year when injuries provided an opportunity. Interest in Burress: Low.
The Dolphins have invested heavily in Brandon Marshall, and Burress probably offers a similar skill set at this stage. They are tall, possession receivers who don't stretch the field (anymore). The Dolphins also have their slot receiver in Davone Bess. While Burress could help the Dolphins' woeful red-zone offense, what they need is a speedster who can help Chad Henne blow the top of coverages on occasion and loosen things up for Marshall and Bess underneath. Interest in Burress: Medium.
New England Patriots
The Patriots, as Williamson noted, are in a similar situation as the Dolphins. The Patriots have Wes Welker and Deion Branch plus tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Their greatest need in the passing game is a lightning bolt to help Tom Brady keep defenses honest. Brandon Tate and Taylor Price are burners, but they are young and haven't established themselves as capable. Interest in Burress: Low.
New York Jets
The Jets seemingly present the greatest possibility for Burress in the AFC East. "That could be a fit," Williamson said. "I could see them taking the risk. And after free agency departures, Burress might be attractive. Plus, they are in win-now mode." Points well taken. The Jets might not be able to re-sign all of their free-agent receivers: Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith. General manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan have shown with Holmes, Edwards and Antonio Cromartie they're open to second chances. Interest in Burress: High.
Smith was the Jets' top kickoff returner, bringing back two for touchdowns in the regular season. He also is a potent weapon in the run game as an option quarterback in their Wildcat-style offense.
Newsworthy for the Patriots is that tight end Aaron Hernandez is active after missing the last two regular-season games with a hip injury.
Here are the rest of Sunday's scratches:
New York Jets
- Quarterback Kellen Clemens
- Fullback John Conner
- Tight end Matthew Mulligan
- Tight end Jeff Cumberland
- Defensive tackle Marcus Dixon
- Defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert
- Outside linebacker Vernon Gholston
New England Patriots
Temperature at kickoff will be about 23 degrees, but it will feel like 9 degrees, with winds gusting up to 23 mph. The chance of snow is 50 percent.
New England could clinch the AFC East title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while a victory over the Patriots would make Buffalo's season. The Bills have won four out of their past six games, including an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Buffalo has lost 14 straight games to New England and 19 out of 20 in the series.
New England Patriots
- Quarterback Levi Brown
- Running back Jehuu Caulcrick
- Tight end Mike Caussin
- Center Geoff Hangartner
- Guard Colin Brown
- Tackle Ed Wang
- Defensive end John McCargo
- Defensive tackle Kellen Heard
New York Jets
- Quarterback Kellen Clemens
- Receiver Laveranues Coles
- Tight end Jeff Cumberland
- Tight end Matthew Mulligan
- Guard Vladimir Ducasse
- Defensive tackle Marcus Dixon
- Defensive tackle Matt Kroul
- Linebacker Jamaal Westerman
- Running back Joseph Addai
- Running back Mike Hart
- Guard Jaimie Thomas
- Defensive tackle Ricardo Mathews
- Linebacker Clint Session
- Linebacker Gary Brackett
- Cornerback Justin Tryon
- Safety Bob Sanders
New England Patriots
- Running back Fred Taylor
- Receiver Taylor Price
- Guard Stephen Neal
- Guard Rich Ohrnberger
- Tackle Mark LeVoir
- Defensive lineman Myron Pryor
- Cornerback Jonathan Wilhite
- Safety Jarrad Page
Here are the inactives:
- Quarterback Joe Webb
- Running back Albert Young
- Receiver Hank Baskett
- Guard Chris DeGeare
- Defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy
- Linebacker Erin Henerson
- Cornerback Lito Sheppard
- Safety Tyrell Johnson
- Receiver Donte' Stallworth
- Tackle Scott Kooistra
- Tackle Jared Gaither
- Defensive tackle Arthur Jones
- Defensive tackle Lamar Divens
- Defensive end Paul Kruger
- Linebacker Tavares Gooden
- Cornerback Josh Wilson
"You just don't replace a guy with Randy's talent and ability down the field," Brady said on his weekly visit with Boston sports-radio station WEEI. "You replace it with maybe using the strengths of other players. So Randy certainly has his strengths.
"Wes [Welker] has his strengths. The tight ends have their strengths. I think it's up to the coaching staff when you game plan to determine what your players do the best, and those are the things that you ultimately do."
Brady also said he'd "love to have an offense that controls the tempo of the game and controls the clock by running it." That would continue a notable departure from what we've come to know of the Patriots' spread offense since Moss arrived in 2007.
On Monday, the Patriots sent a fourth-round draft choice to the Seattle Seahawks to reacquire Deion Branch to help fill Moss' void.
The Branch trade got neglected on the AFC East blog because the news broke during the big Monday night game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets at the Meadowlands.
But ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss had it covered. Reiss presented an efficient analysis of the deal.
Branch is one of the few players that uniquely fits the Patriots' needs at this time. He knows the team's system and can play all the receiver spots, so the learning curve won't be steep. That's a key consideration for the Patriots given their complex offensive system, especially when making a trade during the season. Branch is a high-character player who joins Brandon Tate, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Matthew Slater on the receiver depth chart.